Did the Prophet Muhammad ever lie?

Mythical founding father or historical figure?

In 1978 the American astrophysicist and writer Michael Hart published an amazing book. It is entitled:

"The 100 Most Influential People in Human History."

What is most surprising about this book to many is that in the first place there is a man named Mohammed ibn Abdallah. It is about the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. Michael Hart writes about his election:

"The Prophet Mohammed was the only man in history who was highly successful in both religious and secular fields."

Multiple husband, founder of religion, admonisher and messenger of God. General and conqueror, politician and state leader. More than any other historical figure, Muhammad has aroused fear, hatred and contempt in the Christian world for centuries. Muslims, on the other hand, have always regarded Muhammad as the seal of the prophets, as a shining example and as the perfect human being. In the Christian world, Mohammed was criticized, vilified and condemned by Dante - on behalf of many Christians of the Middle Ages - in his Divine Comedy to the deepest pit of hell. In the Muslim world, Muhammad was glorified and revered. He became the symbol of the godly man.

There is no god but God and Mohammed is the Messenger of God.

This is the Islamic testimony of faith. Anyone who speaks the creed called Shahada in Arabic in front of witnesses is considered a Muslim or Muslim. The Shahada is the first pillar of Islam. Its first part, in which the unity of God and thus a strict monotheism is attested, forms the theological basis of Islam. The second part - and Mohammed is the Messenger of God - forms the basis for the secular development of Islam. Because according to Islamic understanding, Mohammed was the bearer of the Koran, the holy book of the Muslims, and its most important interpreter. His collection of sayings and actions, called the Sunna, is the practical guide for the believers and, next to the Koran, the second important source for the Sharia - the Islamic doctrine of duty. Aiman ​​Mazyek, General Secretary of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, describes how important the prophet of Islam is for Muslims.

"Extremely important and the first creed in Islam ends with the confession of the Prophet, the Prophet's way of life, what he did and said, what he neglected, how he acted, how he treated his fellow men. All that is a large, important component for the Muslim world, for the scholars, and there is no notable, recognized scholar who has questioned this position, this prophet or who has also put him up for grabs, insofar as he is a central figure for the Islamic world Understanding and whoever questions this, as I said, is questioning the entire building. "

According to Islamic tradition, Mohammed was born around the year 570 of the Christian calendar. He was 62 years old and died in Medina in 632. He prays and fasts a lot, and according to Ibn Ishaq, he learned the first revelation of the Koran at the age of 40.

That is the beginning of Islam. And that is the beginning of a fantastic story - also in a historical sense. Only a few decades later, the Islamic world empire stretches from the Atlantic coast of Morocco to the borders of China. Islamic historians and scholars are firmly convinced that the foundation stone for this was laid by the prophet, politician and general Mohammed ibn Abdallah.

Since the appearance of Islam and its prophet on the world stage, there has been no shortage of attempts by Jewish and above all Christian scholars to deny the new religion and its herald of any legitimacy. Islam, so the allegation expressed early on, is sheer heresy and contradicts Christianity. Mohammed has been reviled for centuries as a real anti-Christian.

The list of authors is long who have dealt with the hypothesis that Islam was originally not an independent religious community, but a split off. For years, says the Islamic scholar Gudrun Krämer, there have been researchers who say that they were originally Jews, Christians or Jewish-Christians.

"Let us assume that this is not completely wrong, how should we imagine this process of invention, which has led to a closed structure within a short period of time, which took place 50, 60, 70 years after the death of Muhammad, which then never happened . Where and by whom is something like this invented? "

Through those who wanted to believe in it, Mohammed suggests Kalisch. The Islamic theologian who teaches at the University of Münster has put many of his fellow believers in armor in recent months. He has publicly announced that he does not believe the Prophet Muhammad ever lived. Islam, argues Kalisch, would not be the first religion without a founding figure.

"Why should it not be possible in a period of perhaps 100 to 150 years that a trend of perhaps Christian, perhaps Jewish-Christian origin, why should it not have been so, that a new Gnostic myth emerged in such a trend has, in which a new figure of salvation, which is ultimately only a reproduction of already Moses and Jesus? Because Mohammed is often replicated Moses in many forms. And such processes also happen again and again in the history of religion. Why should that not have happened ? And if a new state emerges at the same time, an Arab empire that can certainly use an independent new religion for consolidation, why shouldn't all these factors lead to a new religion developing on this soil ? "

In the eyes of many Muslims, anyone who doubts the historical existence of the Prophet Mohammed is putting the ax to the root of Islam. As the incarnated Word of God made flesh with life, death and resurrection, Jesus lays the foundation for Christian theology. The basis for Islamic theology is the built-in word of God that has become the book - the Koran, the transmitter of which is Mohammed. According to Islamic understanding, God gave Jews and Christians holy scriptures with the Torah and the Gospel. But these were either falsified or misunderstood and therefore only partially correct. The Koran, on the other hand, is the unadulterated word of God, revealed to confirm and - where necessary - to correct the previous writings. Content approximations are not purely accidental.

"That Islam was viewed as a Christian heresy by Johannes of Damascus, an orthodox theologian from the middle of the 8th century, is not at all surprising. First of all, there are heaps of borrowings in the Koran from the Jewish and Christian tradition. The Koran looks like it is in the continuity of these earlier divine revelations, as it says in the Koran. That there is an overlap has never been disputed. That there were Christians and Jews on the Arabian Peninsula who in a certain way inspired Mohammed - to get it off To say the scientific outside perspective - that is also undisputed. "

There may be a consensus among Western scientists. From a Muslim perspective it is different, says the Islamic theologian Mohammed Kalisch:

"There is a certain tendency, based on Islamic apologetics, to argue with regard to Mohammed that this was a person who could not read, who could not write, who had no way of accessing other cultural sources. That is why the Koran needs a revelation If you approach it with this interest, there was of course an interest from an apologetic point of view, to portray ancient Arabia as as gloomy as possible and to portray Christian, Jewish and perhaps also Hellenistic influences as as absent as possible , one can argue about it. "

The way to a constructive dispute would be the historical-critical exegesis of the Islamic sources, which does not start from assumed fixed truths to be proven, but is pursued with all means of modern science openly. Islam scholars Mohammed Kalisch and Gudrun Krämer also speak out in favor of this.

Kalisch: "I do not believe that historically critical research means the end of Islam or Islamic theology. I still see myself as a Muslim and an Islamic theologian. But I think if you want to try to reconcile Islam and modernity, Islam too And to reconcile the Enlightenment, then you have to ask yourself very specific questions. And one of these questions is the historicity of Muhammad. And this leads to conclusions that certainly have a massive influence on Islamic theology. "

Krämer: "We have a very difficult source of sources, we do not have archaeological finds, and one cannot reject historical-critical research on Islam from the outset on the grounds that it would then question certain beliefs. Yes, it is exactly the same. Most orientalists do not question Muhammad's existence, they just say that we do not have any clearly undisputed documents. "

Which religion can claim this for itself? The beginnings go back a long way. Video recorders, cameras and microphones were not available for documentation. Few people could read and write. Written evidence of the work of the religious founders was only made decades or even centuries later. No attention was paid to possible archaeological traces. In the case of Islam, they have even been deliberately blurred on the soil of what is now Saudi Arabia over the past 200 years. Even if the evidence for the existence of Muhammad, which can be classified as unambiguous in the sense of critical science, is missing, the Berlin Islamic scholar Peter Heine believes that there are sources and indications that speak for the historicity of the Islamic prophet:

"The debates in Western science since the mid-1980s about the question of the authenticity of the prophet have led to increased research efforts being made to look up what was actually said in the area around late ancient Arabia. Basically, the results are that we have to say today that this figure that we know as Mohammed is already historical. There are Byzantine sources, Syro-Aramaic sources. It is also the whole context of the Ethiopian sources, that one Role-play."

When the obligation of daily prayer was imposed on the prophet, Gabriel came to him on the heights of Mecca and dug a hole with his heel [...] from which a spring gushed out. While the Prophet watched him, Gabriel did the ablution to show him how to cleanse for prayer [...]. Then the angel rose with him in prayer, and the prophet prayed like him.

According to Islamic tradition, Mohammed proclaimed the Koran between 610 and 632 of the Christian era. He is the spiritual and worldly leader of an ever growing community. For his followers it is certain that the verses come from God through Mohammed to the people through the Archangel Gabriel. The Berlin Islamic scholar Heine emphasizes that the tribes on the Arabian Peninsula were clearly ready for something new.

"I think we can say today that around the year 600/620 we have something on the Arabian Peninsula - and not just in Mecca - what Max Weber would call a charismatic milieu. Apparently the people were up On the one hand, the Arabian Peninsula is no longer satisfied with its previously customary religious ideas. That is, that was no longer enough to explain their world. The time is one in which Byzantium and the Iranian Empire are at war with each other, in Ethiopia in this That means we have three great empires for which the Arabian Peninsula is extremely central. "

The military success that finally set in after years of tribulation under the Meccan knuckle strengthens the young Muslim community in their conviction that Mohammed receives direct assistance from God. Heine:

"We have a situation here in which the Prophet was gradually sanctified more and more. The death of the Prophet was initially not even noticed by some of his followers. The Caliph Omar, one of the important figures of the early Islamic period, then said, it has been claimed that the prophet died, I tell you that is not true. If he has to correct that later because the prophet is now actually dead, he says, but he will be resurrected in 40 days. That means we have something that I believe, that this community in Medina was still a community of expectations of salvation after all, which reckoned that the Last Judgment would break out in the time of the prophet. When that did not happen, we did, we know from religious history diverse, the reaction, then the form of the foundation is more and more emphasized. But that takes time. "

More than 100 years passed before the first biography of the prophet of the Muslim scholar Ibn Ishaq. In the meantime, the third Caliph Osman has had the disordered Koranic fragments in circulation collected and edited. In the meantime the first incomplete collections of the prophet's sayings have been made. Muhi'uddin ibn al-Arabi, the greatest Islamic mystic, coined the term al-insan al-kamil, the perfect human being. He saw in Mohammed the interface between the divine and the creature world, the microcosm, which exactly depicts the macrocosm in itself.

All Muslims today refer to Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, in very different ways and intensities. He is being co-opted by radical and violent fundamentalists. He is cited by reformers and liberals, cited as an example by feminists and extremely conservative mullahs. He is the role model for 1.3 billion Muslims who understand his speeches and actions, which are interpreted and processed very differently by scholars, very differently. Mohammed - the perfect man - is also the perfect projection screen. Everyone has a certain image of the ideal person Mohammed in their head. The source texts are read and interpreted in such a way that they form a unit with the ideal image. This is human and has been done with all great spirits, religious leaders, philosophers, poets and others since time immemorial. The question of whether Muhammad lived or not does not arise for the vast majority of devout Muslims. You firmly believe that it was. Until recently, the Islamic theologian Mohammed Kalisch was also convinced of this. And Muhammad is the Messenger of God - the second part of the Creed - would not lose its importance in his opinion if there had not been a real prophet.

"Yes, the second part of the creed can be dealt with by saying that this Mohammed stands for an ideal person, stands for the ideal of a person. And Islamic theology would then be a reflection on an ideal person in this area of ​​the creed. That has always existed in Islamic theology, this concept of al-Insan ul-Kamil, the perfect human being, as a spiritual figure. Of course, it is there. And one can also doubt the historicity of a real human being, the possibly supposed to have lived between 570 and 632 - one can still carry on this thought of Islamic theology. One can also justify the Islamic rites and practices, even if they are not traced back to a historical Mohammed. They have a certain spiritual content. "

Not many Muslims will allow themselves to be led into such intellectual reflections. When in doubt, says Aiman ​​Mazyek, they will consult the prophet:

"There is a beautiful saying of the prophet, it says: Leave what arouses doubt in you in favor of what does not arouse doubt in you. This doubt to the verge of self-destruction is a quality that is actually alien to the Muslim."